Sri Lanka president must heal ethnic rift: analysts

January 28, 2010 (AFP) – Sri Lankans opted for stability in their first post-war presidential poll, but analysts say the results underscored simmering ethnic tensions that could once again tear the country apart. President Mahinda Rajapakse was re-elected with a resounding 57.9 percent of the vote on Tuesday despite vociferous local and foreign criticism of his human rights record, alleged nepotism and corruption.

While the island’s politically fractured Sinhalese majority united to give Rajapakse a second term, the Tamils concentrated in the war-ravaged northern and eastern provinces rejected him in favour of his opponent Sarath Fonseka.

In his first statements after re-election, the president sent a conciliatory message to the minority community, as well as former allies in the West with whom relations were badly damaged last year over Colombo’s handling of the conflict with Tamil Tiger rebels.

The United Nations estimates 7,000 civilians died in the final stages of the fighting, and the United States and European Union have called for an inquiry to probe war crimes allegations.

Rajapakse staked his re-election bid on his military victory over the Tigers last May which ended a 37-year armed s